Nursing home residents evacuated after laundry fire
About 90 people taken to air-conditioned junior high school
About 90 Tonganoxie Nursing Center residents were evacuated Saturday afternoon, after a laundry room fire caused smoke damage.
Nursing home staff, family members and other emergency personnel tried to make the transition quick in the 98-degree heat.
Several residents sat in wheelchairs underneath trees, where they tried to stay cool and wait for a bus to Tonganoxie Junior High School.
"They did a real good job of evacuating the building, and the fire department was right on the scene," Tonganoxie police officer Bill Adkins said.
At least two yellow buses with the school district and the center's handicapped-accessible vans helped transport residents.
Firefighters with the Tonganoxie Fire Department and other township and area fire departments responded to a call at 2 p.m. to the nursing center.
Leavenworth County Undersheriff Ron Cranor said a dryer in a linen room caught fire. It eventually spread to a mechanical room and another room.
"There were no patient rooms involved," he said, and no one suffered any fire-related injuries as of 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Denise Harper, of Tonganoxie, was visiting her mother, Ann Thompson, in her room Saturday afternoon when they heard the building's alarm and the door to the room closed, she said. Harper said they waited about 10 to 15 minutes before staff ordered the evacuation.
"I think that they acted pretty quickly trying to get everybody out," she said.
Smoke and water damage eventually caused the evacuation, Cranor said.
With their wheelchairs, walkers, canes and at least one bed, residents settled beneath the building's front awning. Nursing home staff, emergency workers and volunteers helped move them, one by one, to chairs or wheelchairs beneath shade trees where they waited for transportation.
Andrea Smith, daughter of center director Kim Smith, helped her father bring coolers filled with ice and bottled water to the residents. Shortly after 3 p.m., responders had moved most residents.
A damage estimate was unavailable Saturday afternoon as firefighters continued to assess the building, Cranor said.
Because the building sustained an unknown amount of damage, residents were either sent to stay with family members for the night or to other facilities in the area, a Leavenworth County dispatcher said.
Beverly Healthcare owns and operates the nursing center.
For more on this story, see the Wednesday, July 5, edition of The Mirror.